Those who love to travel are ready to travel again
More than 30% of Americans are ready to embark on leisure travel now, according to a June 15, 2020 survey conducted by Goût et Voyage, LLC. 14% of respondents would be ready to travel in 4Q20 and 40% of those surveyed are looking forward to travel in 2021.
Many leisure travelers are also willing to accept safety procedures and restrictions in order to satisfy their wanderlust. 90% would adhere to social distancing rules, 84% are willing to wear masks when visiting museums, monuments and other tourist sites and 80% would book advance reservations/tickets to popular attractions if necessary. A smaller percentage, only 56%, would travel if outdoor dining was the only restaurant option. An intrepid 18% of respondents would travel internationally with possible quarantining to enter a foreign country or to return to the US.
Although these survey results paint a more favorable outlook for the travel industry than previously considered, concerns about Covid 19 still prevail. 26% of respondents are unwilling to travel until there is a Covid 19 vaccine and 11% are awaiting a Covid 19 therapeutic or cure before committing to leisure travel.
The airline industry is hoping for a return to leisure and business travel as soon as possible but it must be willing to recognize travelers’ concerns for personal safety. 57% of respondents are willing to travel by plane only if the middle seat is vacant and 11% will only travel by air in business or first class. 16% are willing to travel by plane now and are presumably satisfied with the airline industry’s current health safety and cleanliness procedures.
According to a June 17 Wall Street Journal article, several US carriers, including Delta and Southwest have committed to keeping middle seats vacant while a number of other carriers are limiting load capacity to 70%, blocking seats and/or notifying passengers when their flights approach capacity. These actions may alleviate some travelers’ concerns however Hawaiian and Frontier have only committed to maintaining these precautions for a limited time, until July 31, 2020 and August 31, 2020 respectively. Other major carriers have not yet indicated how long they plan to keep middle seats vacant and/or limit capacity. In order to encourage air travel, all domestic and international airlines should provide full transparency into their booking policies and their timelines for same. They must continue to provide passengers with flexibility to change or cancel flights with no penalty, at least until a Covid 19 vaccine is widely available. Business/first class travel, a major revenue producer for airlines, is becoming more attractive to a wider swath of the population. A shift towards allocating more space to business and first class seats should be considered as airlines reconfigure their planes.
According to the survey results, the lodging industry outlook is more positive. 21% of respondents would consider staying at a large hotel chain property, 12% would be willing to stay in a small boutique or family-owned hotel, 11% would consider a rental home such as Airbnb or VRBO while almost 50% of respondents consider all of these as viable lodging options. Hotels, especially the large chains, have historically offered lenient change and cancellation policies and they should continue to do so. Smaller properties and rental homes must consider greater flexibility in booking terms if they wish to compete for the business of those willing to travel in the near term.